Graham denied the charge. But in his evidence to the judiciary, he inadvertently let go with a howler; the Sydney Morning Herald reports (with our emphasis added):
MAINTAINING his innocence throughout the judiciary hearing last night and even after, James Graham says he's not a biter, but history will record otherwise after the Bulldogs prop was handed a 12-match suspension for biting Melbourne's Billy Slater in the grand final last Sunday.
Graham was adamant during the hearing that he did not bite Slater, maintaining he was instead saying ''not very nice things'' to the fullback. ''I've played over 250 games [in first grade], I've played [rugby league] since I was seven years old," Graham said. ''I've never bitten anybody. I can't understand how anyone would think that I'd do that in an NRL grand final. I consider myself an honest person. I say honestly, I did not bite him.''
Graham said he had brought Slater into the ''clinch'' position in an attempt to stop his opponent punching him. ''My first instinct is to get in as close as I possibly can,'' Graham said. ''I'm not much of a striker … I'm more thinking about being on the receiving end, getting as close as I can to stop them getting a punch on me. It's been a bit of an ongoing joke at training … It's just to stop punches being thrown really, until it all calmed down. At that point in time, I'm just clinging. If I broke away from that, I've got a four-on-one situation. I'm just trying to stay in as close as I can. I just remember receiving a punch and trying to throw a punch, then I just remember players being on top of me and pulling me off.''
Under cross-examination from the NRL prosecutor Peter Kite, Graham denied the vision showed he had bitten Slater. ''There [on the footage], my mouth is open,'' Graham said. ''The last time I took a bite out of something, I did it with my mouth closed, not open.''
Asked what he was trying to do by sledging him, Graham said: ''I'm trying to annoy him, not upset him. I'm trying to get under his skin a little bit.'' The defence team tendered evidence from a doctor, Amir Ibrahim, who maintained the marks on Slater's ear were in an ''unusual position'' if they were bite marks. A dentist also gave a statement that Graham has missing teeth as well as chipped and broken teeth. Graham, who said he was wearing a mouthguard on the night, was made to take out a lower plate to show which teeth were missing.